Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Who The Pirates Are

Somali pirates have struck again in the Gulf of Aden,seizing two more merchant vessels and taking 45 crew hostage.That brings this year's total to 324 attacks on 37 ships with 8639 hostages.Warships from more than 12 countries,including the U.S.,U.K.,France,Netherlands,Russia,China and India have had sporadic success combating the pirates,but for the most part have only pushed them out into the far reaches of the Indian Ocean to ply their trade.
There are an estimated 1200 Somali pirates.Among them are many ex-fishermen and warlord militiamen,lending useful expertise to their criminal enterprise.The Somali government wants the millions spent on naval patrols to be spent on inland poverty as well,which they think is the root of the problem.The pirates are reaping millions of dollars in ransom with their dangerous escapades at sea.Once monsoon season lets up,they are able to begin another cycle of plunder in their small boats.Their latest victims are the British chemical tanker St.James Park and a Panamanian cargo ship.

Nature's Cost

Many jurisdictions have already exhausted their snow removal budgets for all of 2010.Another winter storm is sweeping across the country.This leaves officials scratching their heads.Winter has only just started,and there is all this frosty activity already.This morning saw temperatures in many areas dipping below normal.Yesterday was brutally cold in the Mid-Atlantic region.Federal aid may be necessary to sustain civilization this winter as local coffers have little left in them but icicles.Wildlife,however,maintains its customary good cheer.Everything they need is free of charge,if humans allow it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Warships Strike Training Camps

The government of Yemen allowed U.S. Navy warships to fire missiles at suspected al-Qaida training camps last Thursday.A person familiar with the situation said President Barack Obama issued the order for the strikes in the north of the country.The Yemeni authorities said they had attacked al-Qaida training camps in the south the same day,killing 34 militants.Locals disputed the account,saying more than 60 were killed,mostly innocent civilians.There were no training camps there,these people say.It was an area close to a road and an army base.
The U.S. has been concerned about Yemen since al-Qaida attacked the USS Cole(DDG67) there in 2000,killing 17 U.S. service members.Al-Qaida fighters from the Iraq and Afghan wars are believed to find refuge among disillusioned tribes,especially in northeast Yemen,which borders U.S. ally Saudi Arabia.Al-Qaida militants have been crossing into Saudi Arabia to conduct raids,attempting to assassinate the Saudi deputy interior minister on one occasion earlier in the year.

Christmas Visit

As I stood in the garage,a white-throated sparrow landed on the driveway and pecked at something,coming within a meter of me.It may have been seed I spilled yesterday.It could also have been grit that broke off while I was shoveling snow.Seed-eaters need to ingest grit,as it helps them digest seed.This migrant came from as far north as Hudson Bay.They winter as far south as northern Mexico.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Afghan War Surge Begins

Admiral Michael Mullen,Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,traveled to Southwest Asia this week to prepare the way for thousands more U.S. troops.A battalion of U.S. Marines was close behind him,initiating the surge President Barack Obama ordered recently.Admiral Mullen said he is concerned about the growing level of collusion between the Taliban,al-Qaida and other extremist groups in Pakistan.The Taliban are dominant in one third of the 34 Afghan provinces.
Some 16,000 U.S. troops have received deployment orders so far,part of a 30,000 troop surge that will be complemented by at least 7,000 troops from 25 other countries.Among them will be 1200 British,1140 Italian,120 Australian and 920 Georgian soldiers.France and Germany will decide on their contribution at a summit in January.Some of the surge forces could be tasked with finding Osama bin Laden.
Admiral Mullen warned that tough fighting lay ahead for the U.S. forces.Many more casualties are to be expected.The admiral was accompanied by USO entertainers for the morale of the soldiers already in the region.

Artificial Christmas Trees

If you have an artificial Christmas tree,you can make it more natural by putting pine cones on it.You can make the tree your own by decorating it with lights of your choice.You don't have to stick to the pre-installed set.Artificial trees used to be silver tinsel.That's the kind of tree Charlie Brown didn't like.By adding some touches to an artificial tree,it turns into something that belongs in your home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Game Show Salutes Military

"Wheel of Fortune" recently completed an Armed Forces Week observance.Military personnel were the contestants for the week.One of them,a U.S. Marine Staff Sargent,won 50,000 dollars in cash and prizes,including a trip to Mexico.The personnel were enthusiastic competitors,but in a brotherly spirit,congratulating each other.You couldn't help but be proud of their comportment.They knew what the stakes were,that they were representing their service and their nation.
In between games on the last show of the week,TV personality Vanna White walked along a Navy pier-presumably San Diego.Ms.White is the assistant of WOF host Pat Sajak.Mr.Sajak said he was a U.S. Army veteran himself.
The WOF tribute was quite a success,bringing the U.S. military into a lot of living rooms that had little knowledge of it.Besides Mr.Sajak,other celebrity veterans are Montel Williams and Ernest Borgnine,U.S. Navy;Alan Alda,U.S. Army Reserves;Chuck Norris,U.S. Air Force;Jack Klugman and Jim Lehrer,U.S. Marine Corps.

A Difficult Forecast

Forecasting winter weather is very inexact.As an example,consider yesterday.In the morning,there was a winter weather advisory.By supper,it had been canceled.At nightfall,with heavy snow falling,it was re-instituted.The takeaway is,judge by what you see,not what you hear,in this surprising season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Predator B Surveys Maritime

The Predator B unmanned aircraft is currently serving the U.S. Navy on various missions,and will soon be helping the U.S. Coast Guard as well.A rare piece of video footage aired recently shows a silvery Predator streaking through a blue Southwest Asia sky.The Predator B flies long-endurance maritime surveillance and reconnaissance missions.It detects,identifies and tracks surface contacts,streaming real-time images to any location worldwide.The aircraft features a 360-degree multi-mode maritime radar,Automatic Identification System and high-resolution Electro-Optic/Infrared system.It is produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.GA-ASI is based in San Diego,California.

Meteorological Winter

December 1 marks the start of meteorological winter.Looking back at the autumn just past,we find that it was warmer than last autumn.According to my gas supplier,it was five degrees warmer on average.This is borne out by plant behavior.A petunia on the deck is still in bloom.A chrysanthemum near it is also still blooming a little.This morning was wintry,however,dawning with a heavy frost.